Do you know what the LSAT sections are? Most people don’t. But if you’re thinking “” or you’re not even sure , you should definitely find out. Finding out all about the LSAT and the different LSAT sections should be one of the first things you do, so you can also figure out . A good LSAT score combined with a strong GPA are your key to getting noticed by law school admissions committees. But the LSAT is not easy. That’s why this article will go in-depth into the features, structure and nuances of each of the three scored LSAT sections and give you expert-approved study strategies that have helped our students master the LSAT.
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There are three scored LSAT sections. Two sections are unscored – the “experimental” section; and the LSAT Writing Essay section that you complete separately from the three scored sections. The three LSAT sections you have to focus on are the scored sections, which are:
- Logical Reasoning
- Analytical Reasoning
- Reading Comprehension
These are the sections you’ll complete on your test day, along with the unscored experimental section. The is done online, before or after your test day. Even though each LSAT section tests for a different skillset, they have similar formats and question structures with a few variations. These variations – which we’ll talk about later – are important to note, especially if you’ve never taken the LSAT before, since knowing and spotting these variations will help you prepare.
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However, the similarities between the sections include:
- The amount of time you have to complete each section (35 minutes, including LSAT Writing)
- The number of questions in each section (between 20-27 questions)
- The multiple-choice format
But now that we’ve talked about their similarities, we can discuss what makes each section unique and challenging in its own way, so you can understand what you need to practice to become familiar with the format.
Number of Questions: 24-25 questions
Skills Tested: analytical skills; critical reasoning; spotting errors or fallacies in an argument; finding the logic within an argument; reading comprehension
Logical Reasoning Question Format
- Multiple Choices
The Logical Reasoning section seems simple, but you have a lot of reading to do here, and the wording, length, and subject matter of the prompts make them hard to follow, but not impossible. The goal for this section during your LSAT study time should be to train yourself to be able to read the prompt once, and then have enough information to be able to choose the correct answer based on what the question is trying to say.
This will be very hard to do. So, you need to practice close reading when looking at practice questions and spotting the words and phrases that allude to what the author is trying to argue, and what their intentions are. This will take time, but use your highlighter to mark the words that will adjust, alter or allude to the author’s true intention, words such as:
- “More”, “most” - when these words appear it usually comes before or after the main argument that a speaker is trying to get across (i.e., “more important”, “more to the point”) so if you see it, highlight it and then pay closer attention to what follows.
- Verbs/Action phrases – these can also determine what the speaker, or question, is trying to get across, so if you see anything such as “disagree” “put to rest” “should settle” the prompt is about to tell you what it is arguing.
- Probability adverbs – you’re likely to see words such as “probably”, “definitely”, and “perhaps”, which make things ambiguous but don’t fall into those traps and start another train of thought; read the entire passage at face value, and then figure out how these adverbs alter the argument being made, if at all.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, so during your studies you should work on adding more words to this list that will help you discern what is being talked about faster.
LSAT Sections: Logical Reasoning Questions
Another thing to pay attention to in the Logical Reasoning section is that it is the only LSAT section that uses a variety of different questions with different purposes. There are over ten separate categories of logical reasoning questions, but not all of them are always used on the actual LSAT. Still, you should spend time researching and examining all of them, in the event the new LSAT administrators include it on your test.
Out of all ten categories the following are used most often on the test:
- Assumption questions (you have to make the leap between information given in the stimulus and the conclusions presented in the answer choices)
- Finding flaws (you have to spot the flaws in a particular argument by choosing the answer that best explains the flaw or mistake)
- Strengthen/weaken questions (you’ll read an argument, and then choose the answer that either supports or disagrees with the argument)
The other question categories that may appear on the Logical Reasoning LSAT section are:
- Paradox questions
- Inference questions
- Method of argument questions
- Parallel reasoning questions
- Principle questions
- Parallel flaw questions
LSAT Sections: How to Study for the Logical Reasoning Section
1. Take Your Time, at First
When starting your practice with logical reasoning questions, don’t feel rushed. While it's important to train with timed and untimed practice tests, in the beginning of your studies, read the question slowly; absorb the information. Don’t blast through the question to get to the answer choices, as if you can simply guess which one is correct. You will inevitably have to re-read the question a few times at the beginning, but learning to take your time reading the question, and noting important facts and details (either mentally or on a piece of paper) will train you to both read and comprehend at the same time, which will help with the next step.
2. Try to Cut Down your Reading Time
Time, and the lack of it, makes taking the LSAT extremely difficult. You have to both ignore time (to avoid stress, anxiety) and pay close attention to it (manage your time wisely), but with enough practice and analysis you should be able to figure out what a question is asking or what argument a speaker is making on the first reading. You should take a few timed tests when you’re ready to get a sense of how much time you spend on each question. Once you have that figure, you can train to cut down on your reading time, so you can spend more time to consider the answer rather than understanding the question.
3. Take Apart the Prompt, Question and Answers
Being able to understand the individual elements of a prompt (speaker, speaker’s viewpoint, relation to others), as well as the question itself, and the set of answers, is a skill that will be useful in all the other LSAT sections. In your practice, use your sketch paper to literally map out all these different elements (this is also useful in the logic games section we’ll talk about later). You can even setup these questions like math equations (if you have any facility with math) to see how to make conclusions based on the variables given, and the rules or guidelines imposed.
4. Rewrite the Questions
In your practice, if you find the language and wording of the questions too prolix, you should rewrite them in language you understand, which is a great way to boost your confidence and not feel intimidated by the test. Rewriting question content will help you see that what they’re asking is not unfamiliar to you, and that you have seen these questions and figured out problems like this before.
Number of Questions: 26-28 questions
Skills Tested: comprehension; facility with complicated language; following several author’s arguments; discerning the main argument; deriving conclusions from language used.
Reading Comprehension Question Format
- Three distinct passages (around 500 words each)
- Answer Choices
The Reading Comprehension section is probably the most familiar-looking LSAT section. All university students will have experience reading scholarly works and papers in various subject matters and having to either write an essay or an exam question based on it. However, while you should use the analytical and reading skills that you hopefully developed in undergrad, you also need to adjust your focus for the LSAT and pay more attention to things such as:
- The intentions and motivations of the author
- The argument the author is making and how they support it
- The ways their argument is lacking
- Making inferences from sparse information
The passages will often be drawn from subjects related to the law, such as the humanities, politics, social sciences, and natural sciences. You should approach this section with a more exacting eye, and not get hung up on remembering details, figures, dates, or characters. You won’t usually be asked about those details, so, you should focus more on the keywords that you used in your undergrad when making an argument.
One of the best ways to spot a thesis or argument is to look for words and phrases like:
- “Ought to”
- “The point of”
The difficulty of the questions changes with every test, but you may get lucky and read a passage that is more transparent in its language, and use simpler words or phrases such as, “this essay”, “we’ll argue”, or declarative sentences that are clearly taking a side or presenting a problem that needs to be solved. But don’t count on it.
Once you spot or understand the argument, then you need to understand how the author is supporting or defending their argument. Are they making salient points? Do their supporting arguments make sense? You have to know the answers to these questions, as you may be asked to refute the argument being made in the question, by choosing an answer that undermines or weakens the author’s original stance.
LSAT Sections: Reading Comprehension Questions
There are a total of four passages in the Reading Comprehension section that you have to complete, along with a separate sub-section, which is Comparative Reading where you have to compare and contrast two opposing viewpoints. But for the three, single passages, you’ll either be asked to:
- Review and identify main points
- Identify and order the relationships between various viewpoints
- Make deductions from the information given
LSAT Sections: How to Study for the Reading Comprehension Section
1. Slow Down
Given the timed nature of the test, you might be inclined to breeze over the passage and think you know what it means, only to find out when you read the question and answers that you have no idea what you just read. This is a habit you must break. Before or after you’ve taken a few LSAT practice tests, try removing the one stressor that trips up everyone – the clock. Remove that pressure and try actually enjoying what you are reading. The more time you take to Read. Each. Word. will make it easier for you to comprehend and absorb them, since your success in this section depends on spotting keywords that will help you identify the author’s viewpoint and understand it. Once you find that the words and arguments are clear upon first reading, you can add the clock and start allotting a certain amount of time for each passage.
2. Read as Much Non-LSAT Material as You Can
Don’t think that preparing for the LSAT means you only have to read LSAT practice questions. You should also read as many different texts as possible to train yourself to be comfortable with dense, esoteric language. These texts can be academic journals, literary magazines, legal analysis, criticism, book reviews, research papers - anything, basically, written by an academic or produced within the world of academia. You don’t necessarily have to “study” these texts and apply the same strategies or tactics you would during your practice time. Do it for fun, while also, sub-consciously, making mental notes of how authors write, defend, and explain their arguments, so it becomes almost second nature to you.
3. Take the Passages as Written
This is a bit tricky to explain, but remember how we talked about how you have to dig deep to discover an author’s argument and uncover how they make their arguments? Well, depending on the question and passage, the answer might be right there on the surface. We talked about how sometimes, although rare, the LSAT might make it easier for you by giving you a passage where the author is straightforward and unambiguous; you should not take this to mean that is a trick or a garden-path sentence trying to deceive you. This is important since the author or passage may express several viewpoints, and switch between them often, but don’t take that to mean they have no argument or thesis; they are simply writing in a way that is familiar to them, and unfamiliar to you.
Number of Questions: 4 logic puzzles with 5-7 questions each (20-22 questions in total)
Skills Tested: applying order to unordered variables; ability to observe rules and guidelines; analyzing complex scenarios; predicting outcomes based on sparse information.
Analytical Reasoning Question Format
- Answer choices
The Analytical Reasoning section, also called Logic Games, is a hard one for most. You have to make sense of a torrent of facts, rules, motivations, reasonings, and imperatives that are not easy to grasp or understand, at first. A typical Analytical Reasoning puzzle (there are usually four for each new LSAT) will present a scenario and set of variables that need to be either:
- Ordered or organized according to a set of parameters
- Have inferences made on what the possible outcomes might be
- Interpreted logically to determine what is true and false
Even though the Analytical Reasoning logic puzzles can seem impenetrable and hard to understand, all you’re basically doing is predicting what this scenario will evolve into; how it will change based on the information given and the stated rules. So, in the simplest sense, it is like piecing together a puzzle, which is why the alternate name of this LSAT section is “logic games”.
However, the interesting (or maddening, depending on your opinion) part of the logic games section is that every question includes a set of rules or guidelines that prevent you from simply choosing the right answer based on the passage. You have to work with these rules to suss out the right answer, and that is another challenging feature of this LSAT section.
LSAT Sections: Analytical Reasoning Questions
As we mentioned, a big part of analytical reasoning is putting things in order, and that format is usually repeated in each of the four sections, with slight variations (putting groups in order; putting individuals and groups in order). However, like all the other LSAT sections, you may be asked different types of questions that ask you, variously, to:
- Examine and explain the rules stated after the prompt
- Explain how new rules or information alter the situation and outcome
- Determine the two possible extremes for a particular situation (best/worst; highest/lowest, etc.)
LSAT Sections: How to Study for the Analytical Reasoning Questions
1. Create a Timeline for Each Puzzle
During your prep time for the Analytical Reasoning section, you need to come up with a timeline or timetable that allots a certain amount of time to each puzzle, and no more. Given the brain-twisting nature of the puzzles, you’ll likely spend more time reading and untwisting the puzzles than you would reading the passages in RC or the arguments in the LC sections. Of course, you can’t devote all your time to the AR puzzles, so you need to time yourself and get your time down enough to be able to answer the questions as best you can and not ignore the other sections.
2. Draw it Out
A good way to order all the variables in a logic puzzle is to draw them, literally. Use your sketch paper to set-up the various players and characters in the scenario, write the rules and guidelines next to it, and then draw lines (or whatever works for you) between them to visualize the way they are ordered and should be ordered according to the questions and answer choices. This is the best way to get out of your head and see the materials you are working with, rather than trying to keep all these metaphorical plates spinning in your head.
3. Manage your Frustrations
All three LSAT sections will make you feel anxious and panicked, at some point, but the AR puzzles are especially frustrating. But you should focus on the information given to you and not start to think that this is impossible or cannot be done. It absolutely can be done and you have all the information you need in front of you to figure it out. The difficulty of the puzzles is off-putting but you have to focus on what’s on the page and tune-out all the doubts by repeating to yourself that there is a right answer and you have to find it. When working on these puzzles, try to keep your thoughts positive, and focus on the physical act of what you’re doing (reading, writing, diagramming) rather than letting your negative thoughts get the better of you.
Hopefully this break down of the three LSAT sections has answered your question about “” and given you some idea of how to create your own , if you want to apply to law school. The LSAT is included in nearly all from the and to elite, Ivy League law schools such as Harvard Law School and Yale. To be sure, there are many but the experience and challenge of preparing for the test is the best intellectual preparation you can do for law school, so you should not dismiss it so easily.
1. What are the three LSAT sections?
The three main and scored LSAT sections are Analytical Reasoning, Logical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension. You must also complete the LSAT Writing Essay section, but it is unscored and has no effect on your ultimate LSAT score.
2. What is the “experimental” LSAT section?
The “experimental” LSAT section is included in your LSAT as a way to test new questions, scenarios, puzzles and answer choices, since the LSAT is meant to change with every new version. This section is not scored, but you have to complete it because you will not know whether it is the “experimental” section or not. Since the experimental section is simply a repeat of one of the other LSAT sections, it will be hard to notice or identify. You will also have 35 minutes to complete this extra section.
3. What is the LSAT Writing section like?
The LSAT Writing Essay is a timed, but unscored LSAT section that you can complete at home. Fortunately, you don’t have to write about yourself, but you will be given a set of countering opinions that you must either dispute or agree with. You don’t have a word count so you can write as much as you want, but as with your , or your , you want to write in a coherent, disciplined manner with structure, concrete examples, and a good narrative flow.
4. What is the hardest LSAT section?
Each of the LSAT sections has their own challenges and can be extremely hard for anyone who does not prepare. But the Analytical Reasoning LSAT section is often cited by most test-takers as the section that is most difficult to prepare for, and the most difficult to write during the test.
5. What is the easiest LSAT section?
Each of the LSAT sections are designed to be difficult for everyone, regardless of your background and education level so there is no “easy” section. You may find some things are easier for you because of your natural abilities or affinities (maybe you do logic puzzles for fun), but no one has ever used the words “easy” and “LSAT” in the same sentence.
6. How can I prepare for the LSAT?
You need to devote as much time as possible to preparing for the LSAT, which means finding out , and syncing up your prep time with the deadlines for the law schools you want to apply to. To prepare for the actual test, you can take diagnostic tests (timed and untimed), use a free or paid , or hire a that can give you personalized advice, and identify the areas who you need to improve.
7. How long does the LSAT take?
You have 35 minutes to complete each of the sections, including the experimental and LSAT Writing essay. In total, the test usually takes anywhere between 3 ½ hours to 3 hours and 45 minutes.
8. Do I need to take the LSAT?
If you don’t take the LSAT, you will still have to take another graduate-level standardized test, such as the GRE or GMAT. The LSAT is difficult but not impossible. However, you do need to devote time, and sometimes, resources, to be able to prepare adequately, and if that is something you are not able to do, then you should consider whether the other tests are more suited to your circumstances and schedule, even though you’ll have to prepare for them as well.